* How Harper triggered a First Nations legal war over Northern Gateway

Mychaylo Prystupa
Eight First Nations announce their federal legal challenge to the Northern Gateway pipeline at a Vancouver press conference. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

The Harper government’s already strained relationship with First Nations that oppose oil sands pipelines is being put on trial this week.

Eight B.C. First Nations are in federal court to launch a legal attack on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. The coalition hopes to overturn Ottawa’s conditional approval of the project, which would deliver Alberta crude to B.C.’s north coast.

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip pledged to go to jail if necessary to stop the pipeline, and said the federal Conservative government has “completely demonized and vilified Indigenous peoples of this country and has declared all of these [energy] projects in the national interest.”

“[It] has pitted the economy against the environment in a reckless and irresponsible fashion," he said at a Vancouver press briefing today.

Expect more "Oka" conflicts

If a Harper government is re-elected, Grand Chief Phillip said to expect huge Indigenous clashes to continue and worsen over Northern Gateway— as well as over Trans Mountain expansion and Energy East pipelines.

“We are very quickly headed for another Oka type of conflict across this country,” he said, in reference to a 1990 showdown in Quebec, between Mohawk warriors and Canadian soldiers that caught the world’s attention.